2014-03-26 / Restaurant of the Week

Donato’s Italian Bistro

The Gazette celebrates the first review of spring with a visit to Donato’s Italian Bistro on Broadway in Astoria. You may have already visited the original Donato’s in Woodside which continues to serve fabulous classic Italian cuisine to the locals there. Now Astorians need go no further than 34th Street to enjoy the same great cuisine. Pablo, the congenial owner presides over the lovely dining room that features sandstone tiles, rustic wood floors, brick accents and soft lighting. This is a serene environment in which to enjoy an intimate dinner for two, dinner with friends, or a big family meal. Groups can be accommodated in the lovely space too so plan your spring event here including showers, birthdays, baptisms and graduation celebrations. You will be warmly greeted here, whether you come for a drink at the handsome bar and some antipasti, or settle in for a sumptuous meal. The service is professional and very friendly.

Nibble on the complimentary bruschetta and a glass of wine while you listen to your server recite the nightly specials that will make your mouth water. Shrimp salad over baby spinach and asparagus, homemade pasta e fagioli soup, rigatoni all Nonna, and chicken rollatini filled with asparagus, sliced ham and provolone, sautéed with shallots and a touch of brandy were just a few of the specials to choose among.

The menu offers both hot and cold appetizers, including an array of bright, colorful salads such as the classic Caprese salad of buttery mozzarella, tomato and basil leaves, which we swiftly devoured with crusty bread ($7.50). There’s seafood salad replete with calamari, shrimp, mussels and crabmeat dressed in fine olive oil and lemon, or a cold antipasto platter with prosciutto, salami, cheeses, peppers and anchovies. Hot antipasti such as tender, crispy fried calamari, baked clams with perfectly seasoned breadcrumbs, zuppa di mussels or clams with their fragrant broth, or tender, grilled octopus will start your meal off well, and they are generously sized for sharing.

“Primi piatti” or “first courses” in Italy revolve around pasta and Donato’s has over a dozen choices, including gluten-free and whole wheat varieties. My linguine with white clam sauce was excellent, cooked al dente and laced with sweet, tender clams ($14.95). Tortellini Bolognese is one of the chef’s specialties, made with rich meat sauce, ground beef and veal. Stuffed shells are filled with fluffy ricotta, as are the ravioli topped with a light tomato sauce ($12.95). Baked lasagna and baked ziti are classic family favorites, made from scratch here.

Moving on to the “Secondo” course, there are plenty of options in chicken, meat and fresh fish. The special branzino of the day was a fillet of white, flaky fish prepared Livornese style with onions, capers, anchovies and fresh tomatoes. Fillet of sole can be simply broiled, or prepared “almondine” with butter, white wine, slivered almonds and subtle herbs, with Pernod sauce, or Francese style for a light and flavorful dish.

Try their signature dish: chicken Donato, made with chunks of boneless chicken, sausage and sliced potatoes, sautéed in white wine for a fabulous, satisfying meal. Tender chicken or veal cutlets are prepared with light, lemony sauces or rolled up with spinach, mozzarella and prosciutto as in the chicken or veal rollatini, dressed in a light brown sauce ($17.95). Chicken scarpariello is another popular item, and the old standard chicken parmigiana keeps everyone happy. Meat lovers will enjoy hefty pork chops, rib-eye steak or skirt steak, cooked to order and served sizzling hot with potatoes and vegetables or pasta.

Savor an after dinner cordial and cup of coffee along with one of their delicious desserts. The warm Zabaglione sauce made with Mascarpone cream, Marsala wine and egg yolk is sensuously poured over fresh strawberries for a palate-pleasing dessert. Housemade tiramisu, Italian cheesecake, chocolate cheesecake, apple pie a la mode or sorbetto make deciding difficult.

For lunch or dinner the brick oven pizzas can’t be beat, in both 10-inch individual size and the large 18- inch size. The light, tender, crispy crust makes the perfect base for all your favorite toppings and yes, Donato’s delivers to your home or office. Lunch-size portions of all their pastas and entrees are great for dining in or taking out. Donato’s Italian Bistro is open seven days a week for lunch and dinner. With great food served in a lovely environment, friendly service, and reasonable prices, there is no reason not to visit the second location of Donato’s, now in Astoria as well as on 39th Avenue in Woodside. Make your Palm Sunday or Easter Sunday reservations now for a fuss-free family dinner and leave the cooking to the expert chefs at Donato’s Italian Bistro. Buon appetito!

34-02 Broadway, Astoria
718.545.4747

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